CFT, City College of San Francisco Faculty Statement on U.S. DOE Letter regarding ACCJC’s failure to follow accepted accreditation procedures

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, August 14, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The California Federation of Teachers and City College of San Francisco faculty today responded to the Department of Education’s (DOE) letter validating their complaint against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) for conflicts of interest, mistaken reliance on deficiencies, and inadequate faculty representation on accreditation teams, by calling for the reversal of ACCJC’s denial of CCSF’s accreditation.

“We are gratified that the U.S. Dept. of Education agreed with us that the process was deeply flawed, and we call on the ACCJC to rescind its unprecedented decision to deny accreditation to CCSF,” said CFT President Joshua Pechthalt. “The Dept. of Education’s decision should dramatically impact CCSF’s future, as the basis for issuing ‘show cause’ and denying accreditation was compromised.”

The Department of Education agreed with three key points raised by CFT and AFT Local 2121, the faculty union at City College.

Firstly, “Our complaint noted that the ACCJC’s own policies and federal regulations were violated when the President of the ACCJC, Barbara Beno, assigned her husband to the City College site visitation team,” said Alisa Messer, president of AFT Local 2121, and an English Instructor at CCSF.

City College and Beno were on opposite sides of a legislative battle in 2011-2012 over a community college reform bill. Assignment of Beno’s husband to the review team raised the issue of a conflict of interest. Federal regulation and ACCJC policy forbid not just conflicts of interest, but the appearance of conflicts of interest. The DOE agreed with CFT that this assignment violates the DOE’s requirement for controls by an accrediting agency at least against the appearance of conflict of interest.

Secondly, “Our complaint stated that federal policy and ACCJC policy were violated in the composition of the accreditation review teams, which were supposed to be balanced between academic and administrative personnel,” said Pechthalt. “In fact these teams have been characterized by enormous overrepresentation by administrators, not only at City College, but consistently at many other California community colleges.” The DOE noted that the teams in March 2012 and April 2013 were overwhelmingly comprised of administrators, and admonished the ACCJC that it must demonstrate a good faith effort to create adequate representation by both.

Thirdly, the ACCJC had retrospectively characterized its recommendations to CCSF in 2006 as “deficiencies.” The change in characterization served to buttress ACCJC’s argument that CCSF could be jumped from full accreditation after its 2006 review to “show cause” in 2012. However, DOE agrees that the “recommendations” of 2006 did not constitute proper notice of deficiencies; or, if that’s what ACCJC meant, it did not then follow up with appropriate actions within the required timelines.

“The agreement of the DOE with CFT and AFT 2121 on these three key points means that the accreditation decisions of the ACCJC are now in question,” said Messer.

“The U.S. Dept. of Education’s letter encourages CFT that our intervention in the process of ACCJC’s own reauthorization as the accrediting agency, which is taking place this fall, will have some impact, and the most egregious practices of this rogue agency, which have deeply harmed the students, faculty and staff of City College, will be reined in,” said Pechthalt.